April 7, 2022

The Strokes played Barclays Center

The Strokes were set to play Barclays Center on New Year's Eve, but postponed the show when Omicron swept through the city. They rescheduled the show to a Wednesday in April and while the occasion felt a bit flat, the band was in rather fine form.

You never really quite know what to expect with a live Strokes show these days. The former saviors of rock don't have the same magnetism they did twenty years ago and they, usually, don't have the same enthusiasm they did when they were billed as the next big thing in music. Their performances can range from pretty good to rather bad at the drop of a hat and their odds of having an off night have steadily increased over the years. However, on what felt like a random one-off night, the band pulled out more songs from their catalogue than they have in years for their hometown crowd and for the first time in a while, seemed like they might even be having fun on stage. The Strokes were never primed to be an arena band either. Their glory days hit their peak when they started to play theatres, but their best days were surely playing bars and tiny, packed clubs. The fact that they've not only transcended those shows to bigger stages, but maintained any kind of status to keep themselves on top of festival posters and playing to the biggest stages in every city they visit is still pretty wild. Especially when you consider the fact that they haven't had a big new hit in over a decade (unless you're going to count the fact that they won a Grammy for The New Abnormal although that really tells you more about the state of the Grammys than the band). After playing these stages for the better part of their careers at this point, the band has finally seemed to embrace the fact that they are indeed arena rockers and invested in their best stage set-up yet. Massive video screens and risers elevated the band, literally, to new heights and impressive displays of lasers and lights really gave off the impression that the band do care about their shows and aren't just in it for a cash grab. "Bad Decisions" was a bit of a surprise, yet pumping opener that helped set the pace for the night and got the crowd moving from the opening moments. From there, the hits were packed in and while timeless classics like "Someday" and "Last Nite" didn't make the list, the night didn't feel slighted. "This is an ode to law enforcement" said Julian before igniting the crowd with "New York City Cops" before turning quickly back to another old favorite "Hard to Explain." Even though it was met with tepid reception from critics, all of the newer songs got enormous applause from the crowd which felt like a pleasant surprise and kept the momentum of the night steady. "Reptilia" launched things to the stratosphere with massive results as the energy seemed to soar to the highest levels of the evening. After a smashing version of "Trying Your Luck," Julian further indulged the crowd in a rare moment of sentiment as he remarked on how the song brought back memories of "playing to empty bars not too far from here." It's not often you'll hear this band wax on nostalgia which only made this moment and overall night feel a bit more meaningful. Surprisingly, the band's third (and better than you remember) album saw the most songs of the night with Casablancas claiming "hey if you do it right the first time you don't need a second chance" before a euphoric "You Only Live Once" brought the house down. From there, it seemed like the band might have finally heard from their fans as they rolled into a light and airy version of "Under Cover of Darkness," a song that many seem to enjoy much more now than they did upon its release, which hadn't appeared in their sets since 2016. In classic form, the band finished off the night with a raucous rendition of "Take It or Leave It" which left a pulverizing wall of feedback to wash over the crowd. Even without some of their biggest hits and rather endless rambling from their frontman, the band still sounded better than they have in ages. Their grooves were tight and they hit all their marks with terrific force proving that they can still carry the torch when they're feeling up to it. Their magnetic charm may not be what it was twenty years ago, but they'll always be rock and roll saviors to me.

Set list

01 "Bad Decisions"
02 "Juicebox"
03 "Eternal Summer"
04 "New York City Cops"
05 "Hard to Explain"
06 "Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus"
07 "What Ever Happened?"
08 "Reptilia"
09 "Under Control"
10 "The Adults Are Talking"
11 "Heart in a Cage"
12 "Electricityscape"
13 "Razorblade"
14 "Selfless"
15 "Trying Your Luck"
16 "You Only Live Once"
17 "Under Cover of Darkness"
18 "Take It or Leave It"

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